The question has been asked, what has changed? Simple answer. Timing. The preliminary recommendation that was identified in November is still the longer term solution.
The Shift Rapid Transit Environmental Assessment is about the implementation of a rapid transit system, and the main objective of the project is to transform the transportation and transit system in the City, through the lens of mobility, constructability, economic development, city building and urban regeneration. It is an infrastructure project and business cases are based on a demonstrated need for the project and follow an evidence based decision making process to allow for an objective comparison of proposals for funding. The demonstrated need is based on the existing and future ridership requirements of the system and the ability of the solution to meet those needs.
The Full BRT is being recommended at the present as a first step based on a findings of the business case. The technical analysis that forms the basis for the evaluation identifies the Full BRT as the most cost effective and best value investment that meets the ridership needs and provides significant benefits from an economic growth, social, environmental and city building perspective.
BRT systems have been proven to be highly effective at providing social, environment and city building benefits when they are designed in a manner that includes dedicated rapid transit lanes, modern accessible permanent stations and attractive vehicle technology that can attract “discretionary” car-owning riders. A BRT solution will provide the same travel times, mobility benefits and character of a LRT solution.
The City may choose to utilize electric and modern designed vehicles, as technology is rapidly changing, which provide the same enhanced qualitative attributes as a light rail vehicle (noise, smooth ride, air quality) and will help attract the choice and discretionary riders by making transit a more attractive mobility alternative and enhance the image of transit.
The Full BRT system provides a more effective operational model today as it provides greater frequency of transit, matching ridership levels with the capacity of the vehicles, while at the same time providing higher reliability due to its flexibility.
System ridership is an essential quantitative factor in determining the need for the project, its viability for funding from other levels of government and financial affordability for the City. The Full BRT alternative meets the transit ridership needs and requirements of today, as well as the projected ridership levels in 2035, which are well within the capacity of the bus rapid transit system. While the ridership projections for 2035, 20 years from today, identify the LRT technology as a potential solution, the ridership levels are at the low end of the spectrum to justify the implementation of the LRT technology.
Transit systems across the country have experienced a flat lining of ridership, despite significant investment in infrastructure. The London Transit Commission experienced a substantial drop in ridership in 2015. The draft London Plan recommends a target of 45% intensification with development focused on the rapid transit corridors and transit nodes in order to help grow rapid transit ridership. At a growth rate of 1 percent per year, the rate of ridership growth is moderate and reinforces the Full BRT recommendation as the solution to best accommodate the projected ridership level. A significant amount of sensitivity analysis was undertaken as part of the business case analysis related to intensification, ridership growth, land value uplift and energy costs. The Full BRT solution provides the highest cost benefit analysis under each of the scenarios.
The Shift Business Case puts forward a Full BRT technology and route recommendation that takes into account a higher degree of analysis in ridership projects, recent trends and transportation technology advancements, operational considerations and public input received through the engagement process. The recommendation provides the right solution at the right time, while taking into account financial affordability and the long term transitional requirements for future conversion to LRT technology.
London’s rapid transit initiative is the city’s largest, most important transformational project.
The rapid transit system will build a more modern, prosperous and environmentally sustainable community and the recommendation before Council is flexible and able to transition to new and evolving transit technologies when warranted.
Rapid transit will improve travel options for all Londoners, build a strong community and promote economic development.
Edward Soldo, P. Eng.
Director of Roads and Transportation, City of London